In college one fall, I got stuck sitting at a drive thru in Stillwater, Oklahoma. This drive thru notoriously took forever. Sitting there just hoping the line will move so I can get my food, this tree caught my attention.
I had seen this tree many times before, but this fall it struck me in a very different way. It’s little leaves whipping in the wind, held onto the branch like a bird holds onto its prey. Then one by one those leaves were violently ripped off of the tree and spun through the air never to be seen again.
I rushed home to tell my friend Aubrey about my new revelation. I am openly obsessed with trees, but this evening took it to a whole new level. Trees are so incredibly rich, laden with such deep meaning. I can and do talk about them for hours, discussing their uniqueness, how they twist and turn, how their leaves reflect light, how the colors of a forest show so many tones and shades. Trees just speak to me.
In that moment in the drive thru line, I harvested a new revelation from trees. I saw that ombre orange brown leaf hanging on for its life. The little stem trying so hard to keep it attached to the tree branch, and then the wind tears the leaf away. But alas, it doesn’t belong there anymore. In order for the tree to grow stronger, to survive winter it must lose its leaves. Some will flutter with grace to the ground. But some will need to be ripped violently from the branch.
Our lives look like a tree. We need to lose things to grow. Some things are easy to spot and fix. They will gracefully, with age or wisdom, flutter away. But others prove more difficult. It is painful to surrender, to let go. Just like the tree some things need to be ripped away from us so that we can keep growing.
To survive the winter trees must go inward. They need to conserve energy. The beautiful fall colors that paint (some) landscapes fade to dulled browns. Everything doesn’t last forever. Things must change to survive. The leaves fall. Winter comes. But during winter the tree grows deep. It prepares for spring.
Without winter the tree would not survive. This is not a fun lesson to learn. Winter can kind of suck. But I challenge you to find the beauty. Grow deep roots. Deepen your relationship with Christ, your community, yourself.
As that bare season ends, new buds begin to sprout. Spring comes with a new joy. The new found spring brings energy and life. Seeing bare branches speckled with teeny-tiny buds makes my heart leap. It fascinates me that all those leaves start there – a little green speckle. Then they blossom into leaves and flowers that fill the tree branches.
Bare branches blanketed with leaves over time provide shade from the sun in the sweltering summer. The tree takes on a new form every season, every year. Each tree twists and spins a different way. Each branch grasps for something it can’t yet reach, but strives to touch. It uses and creates energy. It takes in light to feed and fuel itself. The tree’s roots reach deep and intertwine with one another. It grows more, still.
As fall approaches again the leaves burst like slow motion fireworks across the sky. The smell in the air changes. The winds shift. The leaves, once a brand new sign of life, are now dead and torn from the branch. They flutter and spin off. The tree turns back inside. Still growing, still changing. On the outside the tree appears done and dead. But inside, it works. And soon, it will become new yet again.
How much does this mirror us? We must change. We must grow. Even (and especially) when we are in the pit of a hard season. A season where it feels like everything gets ripped away from us. Or so much newness overwhelms us. Press into these seasons. See the inner workings of the systems in place. Seek how you are changing, being pruned. Look at the tree to see how God draws your heart deeper in fresh new ways, wooing you to Him. Be enthralled by His beauty. Let it draw you to Him alone.